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Missing key to Stephen Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisterium”


Forums Forums General Discussion Missing key to Stephen Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisterium”

This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Citizenschallenge-v.3 2 months ago.

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  • #295214

    The increasingly shrill and disconnected from physical reality attacks on science by faith-based organizations and individuals has me thinking about an essay evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen Gould wrote some twenty years ago in an attempt to address the tension between scientific truths and religious truths.

    His solution was the notion of “Non-overlapping Magisteria” which delineated two teaching “authorities” (magisterium), the “magisterium of science” and the “magisterium of religion.” It wasn’t his original idea, rather a continuation of a centuries old dialogue between scientists and the Catholic Church that I don’t have the space to get into.

    In any event, Gould concluded there should be no conflict because each realm has its’ own domain of “teaching authority.” Since these “magisterium” do not overlap, they cannot contradict each other and should be able to exist in mutual respect.

    When it first came out I loved the idea because of my own struggling intellectual spiritual journey which was embedded within gathering and learning from sober scientific knowledge about this Earth, while also dealing with the spiritual aspect of ‘Touching Earth’ and having experienced ‘God’s Breath’ against my back, so to speak.

    Gould’s idea was interesting and it gained a lot of attention and lively discussion, but in the end seems to have offered little to either side. For myself, the critics made sense and my enthusiasm diminished. Still, the conflict kept echoing like an unresolved challenge as I increasingly engaged faith-shackled contrarians towards science.

    In the years since I’ve kept learning more about Earth’s amazing evolution and geophysics and also the scientific process itself. A process that’s basically a set of rules for gathering and assessing our observations in an honest, open and disciplined manner that all who understand science can trust.

    Recently it occurred to me that what Stephen Gould was missing was a much more fundamental divide that is crying out for recognition. 

    Specifically, the <b>Magisterium of Physical Reality</b> vs the <b>Magisterium of our Human Mindscape</b>.

    In this perspective we acknowledge that Earth and her physical processes and the pageant of evolution are the fundamental timeless touchstones of reality.

    Part of Earth’s physical reality is that we humans were created by Earth out of her processes.  Science shows us that we belong to the mammalian branch of Earth’s animal kingdom.  

    Yet, it’s undeniable that something quite unique happened about six million years ago when certain apes took a wild improbable evolutionary turn.

    By and by besides the marvel of our two hands, we developed two feet and legs that could stand tall or run for hours and a brain that learned rapidly. During that evolutionary process something extraordinary fantastical was born, the Human Mindscape.

    On the outside hominids learned to make tools, hunt, fish, and select plants, plus they mastered fire for cooking and better living.

    On the inside our brains were benefiting from the new super nourishment while human curiosity and adventures started filling and stretching our mindscapes with experiences and knowledge beyond anything the “natural” physical Earth ever knew.

    While the human mind and spirit are ineffable mysteries, they are also of tremendous consequence and real-world physical power. They drove our growing ability to study and manipulate our world, to communicate and record our experiences and to formulate explanations for a world full of mysteries, threats and wonders.

    People learned to think and gossip and paint pictures upon the canvas of cave walls, or even better, upon the canvas of each other’s imaginations. We’ve been adding to our brain’s awareness and complexity ever since.

    Of course, while all this was going on the human mind was also wondering about the ‘Why’ of the world it observed and the difficult, fragile, short lives we were allotted. In seeking answers to unknowable questions it seems inevitable that Gods would inhabit our mindscape. I suspect inspired by buried memories of being coddled within mom’s protective loving bosom those first couple years of life.

    No doubt these “Gods” enabled further successes, though not through super-natural interventions, but rather through their ability to form, conform, reform and transform the mindscapes of the masses of people beginning to congregate. Thus, combining pragmatic civil societal needs with universally felt, but keenly personal questions, fears, and dreams.

    After the middle ages tribal stories, accepted ancient doctrines and religious “truths” were no longer enough to satisfy our mindscape’s growing desire for ever more understanding and power over the Earth. The human brain took another tremendous leap forward in awareness with the Intellectual Enlightenment and the birth of serious disciplined scientific study.

    Science’s success was dazzling in its ability to learn about, control and manipulate Earth’s physical resources and to transform entire environments.

    Science was so successful that today most people believe we are the masters of our world and most have fallen into the hubristic trap of believing our ever fertile mindscape is “reality.” 

    Which brings me back to Gould’s magisterium and his missing key. The missing key is appreciating the fundamental “Magisterium of Physical Reality,” and recognizing both science and religion are products of the “Magisterium of Our Mindscape.”

    Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our mindscape. 

    Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable. 

    What’s the point? Religions, God, heaven, hell, political beliefs, even science, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.

    Here we are, 2018, sober assessment of physical facts is out of fashion and fantasy thinking in the service of ruthless avarice is in.

    Now it literally threatening to topple USA’s government For The People, By The People, in favor of a Me First, profits are more important than people, oligarch run machine. Well, unless an awful lot of sideliners start getting engaged in democratic politics.

    All the while the actual physical creation outside of our conceited little minds keeps on unfolding, following well understood geophysical rules regardless. Ignore at our own peril.

    #295228

    Cleaned up a little.

     

    The increasingly shrill and disconnected from physical reality attacks on science by faith-based organizations and individuals has me thinking about an essay evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen Gould wrote some twenty years ago in an attempt to address the tension between scientific truths and religious truths.

    His solution was the notion of “Non-overlapping Magisteria” which delineated two teaching “authorities” (magisterium), the “magisteria of science” and the “magisteria of religion.” It wasn’t his original idea, rather a continuation of a centuries old dialogue between scientists and the Catholic Church that I don’t have the space to get into.

    In any event, Gould concluded there should be no conflict because each realm has its’ own domain of “teaching authority.” Since these “magisteria” do not overlap, they cannot contradict each other and should be able to exist in mutual respect.

    When it first came out I loved the idea because of my own struggling intellectual spiritual journey which was embedded within gathering and learning from sober scientific knowledge about this Earth, while also dealing with the spiritual aspect of ‘Touching Earth’ and having experienced ‘God’s Breath’ against my back, so to speak.

    Gould’s idea was interesting and it gained a lot of attention and lively discussion, but in the end seems to have offered little to either side. For myself, the critics made sense and my enthusiasm diminished. Still, the conflict kept echoing like an unresolved challenge as I increasingly engaged faith-shackled contrarians towards science.

    In the years since I’ve kept learning more about Earth’s amazing evolution and geophysics and also the scientific process itself. A process that’s basically a set of rules for gathering and assessing our observations in an honest, open and disciplined manner that all who understand science can trust.

    Recently it occurred to me that what Stephen Gould was missing was a much more fundamental divide that is crying out for recognition. 

    Specifically, the Magisteria of Physical Reality vs the Magisteria of our Human Mindscape.

    In this perspective we acknowledge that Earth and her physical processes and the pageant of evolution are the fundamental timeless touchstones of reality.

    Part of Earth’s physical reality is that we humans were created by Earth out of her processes.  

    Science shows us that we belong to the mammalian branch of Earth’s animal kingdom.  Yet, it’s undeniable that something quite unique happened about six million years ago when certain apes took a wild improbable evolutionary turn.

    By and by besides the marvel of our two hands, we developed two feet and legs that could stand tall or run for hours and a brain that learned rapidly. During that evolutionary process something extraordinary fantastical was born, the Human Mindscape.

    On the outside hominids learned to make tools, hunt, fish, and select plants, plus they mastered fire for cooking and better living.

    On the inside our brains were benefiting from the new super nourishment while human curiosity and adventures started filling and stretching our mindscapes with experiences and knowledge beyond anything the “natural” physical Earth ever knew.

    While the human mind and spirit are ineffable mysteries, they are also of tremendous consequence and real-world physical power. They drove our growing ability to study and manipulate our world, to communicate and record our experiences and to formulate explanations for a world full of mysteries, threats and wonders.

    People learned to think and gossip and paint pictures upon the canvas of cave walls, or even better, upon the canvas of each other’s imaginations. We’ve been adding to our brain’s awareness and complexity ever since.

    Of course, while all this was going on the human mind was also wondering about the ‘Why’ of the world it observed and the difficult, fragile, short lives we were allotted. In seeking answers to unknowable questions it seems inevitable that Gods would inhabit our mindscape. I suspect inspired by buried memories of being coddled within mom’s protective loving bosom those first couple years of life.

    No doubt these “Gods” enabled further successes, though not through super-natural interventions, but rather through their ability to form, conform, reform and transform the mindscapes of the masses of people beginning to congregate. Thus, combining pragmatic civil societal needs with universally felt, but keenly personal questions, fears, and dreams.

    After the middle ages tribal stories, accepted ancient doctrines and religious “truths” were no longer enough to satisfy our mindscape’s growing desire for ever more understanding and power over the Earth. The human brain took another tremendous leap forward in awareness with the Intellectual Enlightenment and the birth of serious disciplined scientific study.

    Science’s success was dazzling in its ability to learn about, control and manipulate Earth’s physical resources and to transform entire environments.

    Science was so successful that today most people believe we are the masters of our world and most have fallen into the hubristic trap of believing our ever fertile mindscape is “reality.” 

    Which brings me back to Gould’s magisterium and his missing key. The missing key is appreciating the fundamental “Magisterium of Physical Reality,” and recognizing both science and religion are products of the “Magisterium of Our Mindscape.”

    Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our mindscape. 

    Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable. 

    What’s the point? 

    Religions, God, heaven, hell, political beliefs, even science, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.

    Here we are, 2018, sober assessment of physical facts is out of fashion and fantasy thinking in the service of ruthless avarice is in.

    Now it literally threatening to topple USA’s government Of The People, By The People, and For The People, in favor of a Me First, profits are more important than people, oligarch run machine. 

    Well, unless an awful lot of sideliners start getting engaged in our democratic process.

     

    All the while the actual physical creation outside of our conceited little minds keeps on unfolding, following well understood geophysical rules regardless. 

    Ignore at our own peril.

    #295230

    Phenomena
    Participant

    A very good post worth reflecting on. My first thought was that the premise that the two domains don’t overlap might be a bit more fuzzy than is claimed. For example both have versions of how the Earth came into being which are very different from one another, therefore how can both be true? Simply declaring that the question isn’t relevant because the two domains are different is ignoring the importance of the question, and respect depends on criteria such as truth. Therefore those who respect truth may find that the evidence for one domain vastly outweighs the other, and therefore is deserving of more respect. After all, not all opinions, beliefs, and worldviews carry equal weight. Therefore why should they deserve equal respect?

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  Phenomena.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  Phenomena.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  Phenomena.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  Phenomena.
    #295310

    Simply declaring that the question isn’t relevant because the two domains are different is ignoring the importance of the question, and respect depends on criteria such as truth. Therefore those who respect truth may find that the evidence for one domain vastly outweighs the other, and therefore is deserving of more respect. After all, not all opinions, beliefs, and worldviews carry equal weight. Therefore why should they deserve equal respect?

    Fair enough but I’d dare say your critique applies to Stephen Gould’s original essay and that my above essay, fills in the missing key.

    Thus we find that both science and religion belong to our “Mindscapes” –

    The difference between science and religion is that science is dedicated to objective observations and assessments, with a series of rules to help insure it’s objectivity.

    Whereas religion is all about the mindscape, where anything you dream up (no matter how unhinged from actual physical reality) can be considered valid if others agree with the fantasy.

     

    #295336

    Lausten
    Participant

    I’m sure when we are defending science, many if not all of us have had the accusation lobbed at us that we just want to know physical reasons for everything. First, why not, but that’s the philosophical response. I’ve come to accept that many, maybe most people prefer some fantasy in their lives. They want to leave open the possibility that aliens will come down and fix everything for us. So, put that aside.

    I never had a problem with wonder and mystery. Knowing the big bang theory doesn’t help me navigate the streets of Duluth, MN. At first, when I stopped believing, I missed the magical worlds I had in my head. But the more I studied what science told me, the more those worlds were replaced by actual images of a universe where time bends, and microscopic creatures walk like Mr. Natural, and mystery, there’s plenty of that. I may want to know everything, but I won’t. That desire to understand the universe is what drove people to make up spirits behind the movement of the wind. Knowing what wind is doesn’t take away from the wonder of watching it blow across a field. It doesn’t take away the desire to know more.

    #295394

    Offler
    Participant

    I am almost sure that Gould was attempting to set a truce between religion and science.

    I also know many people associated with both groups, and it might be perceived as unproductive or aggresive to tell that religion is being proven wrong each passing day – mainly because humanists (both secular and religious) do recognize that we are all part of the global human society.

    This is but one representation between our wish to be individuals with unique identity, and our wish to be part of a group which share our interests and worldviews.

    Religious in USA do reject science, because it breaks the fairy-tale parts of their religion and fundaments of their personal philosophy (for example a realization that sexual orientation is not a matter of free will – it conflicts with the notion that God gave free will to humans). Bill Maher interviewed a Vatican Astronomer in Religulous and he stated that the science and the Bible cannot be mixed, based on time periods when the Bible was being written (6000 bc to 200ad), yet the refusal of science by religious is cotradicting to his and Goulds worldwview.

    I dont think that Gould or vatican astronomer (i have forgotten his name) are wrong, but there is something about being mature in the religion. People who are usually confronted by CFI or American Atheists or ACA are usually very immature in their way of thinking.

    Been talking to a christian in Slovakia who was apparently very mature about his opinions. He stated he believe in God, but when i asked him what it is, he started to reply with a ambiguously rhetorical questions. “Whats a god? – What do you think its a God?”. In the end he expected i will end up in a circular argument with myself. That would not be a good thing, but apparently its a working reassuring mechanism for people who lack enough confidence. But he did not insisted on literal truth of the Bible, nor literal interpretation of religious ideas.

    Belief will fill the gaps, and allow the individual to deal with the problems in everyday life without overthinking everything. I as a non-believer tend to think way too much and its a problem of its own, but on other hand my mind did not “closed on something” as put by Douglas Wilson.

    Science as a system of answering the questions and Belief/religion as a systems of answering the question are very different, and however are overlapping on level of an indidvidual. If you understand the scientific method, it can become an integral part of your day-to-day thinking, and exploring the world. If you accept the religion, you might never learn anything new in your life.

    The reason why its still, and for some time it will be considered to be non-overlapping is that believers will in the end stop caring about unanswerable questions, will turn to normal day-to-day life where they will use the logic i described as scientific. Thats the duality of a scientists who are also christians in USA.

    I perceive it in a way, that we are speaking about two vastly different schools of thought. One pretends to provide answers to everything, the other prefers to say “i dont know” or “i know a little”. Even when those are contradictory, people are capable to learn both of them and use them in different situations…

    #295405

    Offer,  that was interesting, now if only I could figure out what it has to do with the essay I wrote, or the suggestions I put forth, I’d feel a lot better.

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